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A rainbow of resources

Gay parents, families find growing support network

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Family activist Ellen Kahn with her two daughters. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Today we know there is not just one way to see family.

Instead, we see many different forms and fashions of family, not captured by one cookie-cutter model.

Ellen Kahn, a lesbian, understands full well what it means to choose parenting. She studied families as a profession after all, in her career as a social worker. She directs the Family Project at Human Rights Campaign, so it is her personal project as an advocate and educator. But also she brings her passion for family building home to Silver Spring, where she lives with her partner of 22 years. They were married in D.C. last year and have two daughters ages 8 and 11.

As she spoke of the so-called “gayby boom,” she stopped to say that today parenting has become “a commonplace choice” for LGBT people, and that “there are various paths” to get there. “Now,” she says, gays “can see yourself with kids, if you want.”

As a barometer for the continuing boom in LGBT parenting, she says to look at “Mayby Baby,” the eight-week class for LGBT prospective parents, single or partnered, who are “maybe, just maybe,” she says, “considering parenthood and interested in learning more about the options for building a family.”

This “gayby-boom” and attendance at the “Maybe Baby” classes — offered by Rainbow Families, a D.C. area group (Kahn is its board chair) — according to her “began to spike in about 2006,” at first more so among women, “but now there’s a steady increase among men also.”

Family planning, she says, is really what it’s all about. And increasingly, it also includes a choice to become a temporary parent, through foster care, as well as a permanent parent, whether through maternal surrogacy or sperm donors or regular adoption.

Whether it’s becoming a foster parent, or taking the step to adopt a child already in foster care, Kahn says that “in general in our community more and more folks are saying ‘I need to get educated’ about foster care and adopting kids from foster care,” and that such decisions often include “waiting a little longer for younger kids, or on the other hand, when they don’t see themselves as changing diapers,” to decide instead to become a foster parent or adoptive parent to someone older, even like the self-identified LGBT teenagers that Kenya Grant-Murphy places in foster care but ideally wants to see in permanent homes.

“The push has come for us to place LGBTQ self-identified children,” says social worker Grant-Murphy, referring to the new contract, which went into effect Feb. 1, between the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services agency and KidsPeace, where she has worked for nearly two years as a family resource specialist.

Founded in 1882, KidsPeace, which is a private charity with services in nine states including D.C., Maryland and Virginia, sees this challenge as a priority, including “Q” — for questioning — in its categories of sexual orientation, especially as they apply to youth. For KidsPeace, says Grant-Murphy, the philosophy is one that brings “a unified, comprehensive approach to treatment” of troubled and at-risk kids.

“We look at this as a case-by-case scenario,” she says, “where the goal is permanency for the child,” whether that comes in the form of the child’s return to its biological family, adoption or guardianship, but it can also include a transitional approach to help a child, to meet an immediate need that’s temporary in nature, in foster care placements that she says “can be as short as a week, in an emergency situation, but ideally not longer than 18-24 months.”

Under the new KidsPeace contract with the D.C. government, “we have to have a certain number of homes available for LGBTQ kids,” she says, “because if we get such a referral, we want to be able to place that individual right away.” Currently she has four homes she calls “affirming” for such kids, each one housing an LGBT young person, two of them clearly “out,” a 16-year male and a 17-year-old female. The other two have not disclosed their orientation yet, she says, “but there are behaviors” that suggest such a same-sex orientation.

KidsPeace is seeking more foster homes in the D.C. metro area — as well as people willing to adopt or become a guardian — who are willing to take on the special challenges of housing such kids. But she points out that to become a foster parent is necessarily “an intrusive process,” for any foster parents, who can be either a single parent or a two-parent household, and she declares emphatically that, “we don’t discriminate.”

Foster parents must become licensed through a process that begins with an application and is followed by a background check with documentation, evaluation of references, training and interviews and home study. Each foster parent is eligible to receive a monthly stipend, the amount for which is determined by whether the placement is what Grant-Murphy terms “either more traditional or more therapeutic.”

Families take many forms. Sometimes it’s one of the parents who comes out as LGBT, not the child. Sometimes it turns out to be both. Just ask Alison Delpercio, who works with Kahn at HRC’s Family Project by day. But in her spare time, this 26-year-old has a special mission — to reach out to those young people trying to “navigate,” as she calls it, the choppy waters of adolescence while facing the added challenge of learning that a parent is gay.

She knows the feeling. When she was 15, her father told her that he is gay, and she admits today that, “my initial reaction was one of fear, because I didn’t know what this meant for my family.”

“My feelings were, ‘What does this mean for my family and what will change,’ and also ‘How can I support my dad through this?'” Today, she says, “I wish I’d had something like COLAGE when I was younger going through this, because then I felt like I was the only person in the world who had a gay dad, until I met with other families just like mine, and that was amazing.”

Based in San Francisco but with a local chapter in D.C., COLAGE — Children of Lesbians and Gays — is a national movement, she says, of young people and adults with one or more LGBT parents. Delpercio joined the local chapter in early 2009 and began to “co-facilitate a monthly youth group for middle-schoolers,” kids in sixth through eighth grades, “who have one or more LGBTQ parents, to help them lose their feelings of isolation, and so they can learn from each other.”

Delpercio, who came out herself as lesbian when she was 20, says she is proud of how her own family toughed it out when her father disclosed that he was gay five years earlier, because she says that “it was a struggle but we have come out stronger.” For one thing, she says her mother has been “supportive” of both her ex-husband and her daughter. Her mother is straight, Delpercio says, but she is an “active ally to the LGBTQ community.”

More information is available at [email protected].

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Real Estate

What to watch for during an open house

Check condition of kitchen, flooring, windows, and more

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When touring a home, check out the condition of kitchen cabinets.

Anyone who knows me might say that I am detail obsessed. This has proven to be an amazing asset when looking at real estate. When I scour through listings for clients I am analyzing the photos, floor plans, and square feet of each property to ensure that everything flows properly into what my clients are looking for in their home. These items I search for also tell the tale of how recently renovated a property is, how well loved it was and a general idea of how much will be needed to make improvements and get it into the condition and aesthetic of which my clients are dreaming. When the time comes to see property in person, the fun begins and I am going to provide a few simple tips that you can use on your Sunday open house strolls that we all love to do.

The following is by no means an exhaustive list of things that I, and other individuals, keep an eye out for when touring homes, but these are perhaps the most noticeable and least controversial. Let me state here (for my lawyer warned me) I am by no means a home inspector, contractor, interior designer, etc.

The kitchen truly is the heart of the home, especially with the holidays approaching. Some obvious items to identify are the cabinets. Are they soft close or can you slam them shut in an argument and really get your point across? If they are not soft close this means that likely they are on the older side and as such most items in the kitchen are also on the older side. In the kitchen I focus mainly on items that are difficult to remove, like cabinetry and counter surfaces. Appliances, while sometimes costly, can easily be replaced due to wear and tear.

• Moving through the house I take note of windows. What material are they made out of? Are they operational or painted shut? And how many are there? This last piece is CRUCIAL. This not only comes to mind when you need to replace windows but more immediately for the purpose of window coverings — it all adds up quickly.

Flooring is next on the list. Not so much that the warm wood tones will clash with my client’s furniture, but more so the condition of the flooring and how much there is. Again, similar to the windows, coming from a place of utility and replacement. What condition is the flooring in and what type? If I’m lucky enough to find original wood floors my clients have been searching for, how many times have they been refinished and can they be refinished again? If not, then how large is the home and what’s the cost to replace the flooring. As I pointed out earlier, on behalf of my lawyer, I am not a structural engineer either. I would take note of any low points or dips in the flooring and if needed, consult an engineer to take a look at the support pieces of the home.

Moving onto electrical components. An easy thing to look for is outlets. Identify the type of outlets a home has. We are fortunate here in the DMV to have a plethora of older homes. This comes with its own set of challenges. If you see an outlet that only accepts a two-prong plug then likely the electrical system is older and will need to be upgraded. Looking at the electrical panel for the home is also a very important step. If there are two prong outlets and glass fuses in the electrical panel then this is a great time to call Chip and Joanna Gaines as this home will likely need a massive overhaul.

Again, this is in no way an exhaustive list of things to identify as you are house hunting but rather some items that I always look for and point out when advising clients with perhaps one of the most expensive and scariest purchases of their lives. These items above are not meant to condemn a home but instead identify if a home is a good fit for you based on a more in-depth look. Paint and light fixtures can be changed, similar to hair color, but it’s a bit harder to change one’s heart. Ensuring the overall structure of the home and the more expensive components are in working order and have several useful years left is paramount. 

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243 or [email protected]

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Real Estate

Investing in real estate: What you need to know

From REITs to flips, tips for getting started

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In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.

In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.

Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:

• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.

• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.

• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.

• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.

• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.

(At GayRealEstate.com, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Dining

Bistro du Jour transports you from Wharf to Seine

New casually sophisticated restaurant a welcoming, inclusive space

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The owners of Bistro du Jour say, ‘Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics.’ (Photo by Rey Lopez courtesy Bistro du Jour)

Delights run morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a casually sophisticated French outpost sliding into a prime waterfront space.

Courtesy of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant flaunts a menu born from a Seine-side bistro, serving coffee in the morning hours to Champagne in the evening. Its all-day culinary oeuvre begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes, and ends with items like a towering and meaty bi-patty cheeseburger L’Americain.

Taking over the sweet spot vacated by Dolcezza, Bistro du Jour is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, KNEAD group’s two other Southwest waterfront locales. The group also runs several other formal and large-format restaurants they have populated across the city.

Why bring French to the Wharf?

“We have been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at all hours of the day and find something they wanted, from coffee and pastry to a full-on sit down at night.”

The Bistro opens at 7:30 a.m. serving that local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery pastries from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8 a.m. with brioche doughnuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle, and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.

Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD spot, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “greatest hits” of a typical Parisian bistro.

“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the griddled buttered bread topped with a sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce… It’s so rich and delicious.”

By 11 a.m., the Bistro transitions to other traditional French fare, like French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak frites, mussels in a white wine and garlic butter, and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. One unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinis. There are also gougeres, warm cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.

Come 4 p.m., the dinner menu fills out even more, with additional dinner items confit de canard (duck leg with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French Alps farm.

Due to space limitations, the Bistro lacks a sit-down bar. Yet beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been a part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You’ll find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon, and bitters.

The bar itself carries only one brand of each liquor: one gin, rum, and vodka. “ If you want vodka, you’re having Grey Goose,” notes Reg with a smile.

Given the cuisine, there is a considerable French wine list topping 60 bottles, leaning heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are almost 20 red, white, rose, and Champagne options by the glass and carafe, as well. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.

Notably, the majority of the restaurant’s seating is situated on the building’s exterior, in a newly constructed all-season patio enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize waterfront views, capacity, and flexibility. During warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee-sippers; in the colder months, the windows roll down for a fully enclosed and conditioned space. The patio’s banquettes arrived directly from France, and twinkling strung lights sway from the ceiling.

The interior is done up in Mediterranean greens, pinks, and creams. Big windows welcome in daytime natural light, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bentwood bistro chairs dot the space and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Over at the bar, the glassware display was created from a single panel of antiqued brass. At the rear, a daytime counter offers coffee, pastries, and drinks.

As Bistro du Jour’s owners are both gay men, they note that, “Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization.”

“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to lead your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable leaders.”

Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the teeming, pedestrian-heavy Wharf “was the perfect fit,” they say. 

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